NBA playoffs: the final solution

NBA playoffs 350-450 wire service picture It’s that time of yearagain. Spring is in full swing, and some of the world’s greatestathletes are out to prove themselves, build their legacies, andchallenge the limits of what seems humanly possible in what has becomeone of America’s favorite pastimes. No, I am not talking about MajorLeague Baseball (no one has cared about that since A-Rod and companydecided that a few more homeruns were worth the testicle shrinkage). Iam, however, referring to the ultimate ending of all wars, the answerto our economic crisis, and the solution for global warming otherwiseknown as the NBA playoffs. Withthe first round drawing to a close, a few things have become clear.With the Kevin Garnett-less version of the Boston Celtics being bangedup and the Orlando Magic experiencing a little first round turbulencewith the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers, it is hard to imagine that anyteam besides the Cleveland Cavaliers could rise out of the EasternConference, especially with Lebron James in his usual dominating form. Despitethe seemingly obvious outcome, the Eastern Conference bracket stillretains some entertainment value as several young teams still hold thenaive notion that they can somehow stop the inevitable reign of theKing James. Under the leadership of MVP caliber Dwyane Wade, the MiamiHeat appear to be on the rise as both Jermaine O’Neal and MichaelBeasley have decided it might not be such a bad idea to give D-Wade alittle help here and there, and let’s face it, when Wade is on, itisn’t even fair. If they make it past Atlanta, they could give the Cavsa little trouble in a game or two in the second round. Likewise,the Chicago Bulls have proven their naivety by refusing to accept theidea that they have no chance against Boston, even without KG. TheBulls have made it a series, but with Ben Gordon’s hamstring injury andthe Celtic’s home court advantage, it’s doubtful that Chicago will haveenough offensive push to actually win a game 7 (especially, consideringthat Brad Miller couldn’t even hit the rim when trying to miss a freethrow in the closing seconds of Game 5). Inthe Orlando/Phillidelphia series, the emergence of young players likeThaddeus Young gave the Seventy-Sixers the seemingly ridiculousimpression that they too could compete with an Orlando team that wassupposed to blow them away. Turns out, they could. Even though theylost the series, Andre Iguodala and company successfully postponedtheir fate of first round failure in an impressive manner that suggeststhat this young team will only get better. Unfortunately, they neverreally had a good chance of moving past Orlando with Dwight Howardgobbling twenty plus boards in a single night’s work. Asthe last of the Eastern Conference series drag on, the West’s firstround is in the bag and with no surprising results. However, the secondround could prove to be a bit more interesting. Though Kobe and the LosAngeles Lakers easily moved past the Utah Jazz, they have something toworry about in the Houston Rockets. Despite the absence of TracyMacGrady, the ever-dominating post presence of Yoa Ming and theever-intimidating upper body of Ron Artest could give the Lakers aseries. Let’s not forget the fact that Shane Battier and Ron Artest arearguably the best on-ball defensive duo in league meaning that Kobemight actually have to work for his paycheck in this series. Thesecond round Dallas/Denver match-up has the potential to be exciting aswell. Dirk Nowitski and the Mavericks began to heat up in the firstround against an injury-plagued Spurs team. Despite this, Denver’schances are good in this series because not only do they have presencein both the post and the wing, but Chauncy Billups is a clutch playerwith the ability to distribute the basketball. He has a knack forcoming through in high-pressure situations, and this series will be nodifferent. Furthermore, the Mavs over reliance on Dirk could provefatal on nights that he isn’t shooting well. Inthe end, it’s hard not to see it coming down to the Lakers vs. theCavs, pitting arguably the two best players of this era head to head.Although many people will look forward to the Kobe/Lebron showdown (asI will), in actuality, it will probably be the play of the supportingcast members for both teams that will determine the series becauseultimately, it doesn’t matter how well Kobe or Lebron play if theirteams don’t contribute. Which ever player can get his team involved ina meaningful manner will win the series. With the experience of Kobeand his hunger to win a post-Shaq era championship for the Lakers, Ithink LA will take this one.